Friday, April 4, 2014

Before the Big Bang

Human beings are always curious about the origin of everything: Where did we come from? Where did our Earth come from? Where did our Universe come from? For centuries, many scientists have done research trying to answer these questions, and they have successfully found some plausible explanations for them. Regarding the beginning of our Universe, today we recognize the Big Bang theory as the prevailing model for the evolution of the Universe. According to the Big Bang Theory, because observations have shown that our Universe is expanding, if we work backwards, the Universe would shrink to an extremely hot, dense point, called a singularity, where all modern physics laws would fail. However, the Big Bang Theory does not cover the “very beginning.” So if we assume the Big Bang Theory is correct, what happened before “the bang”?

Some theories that attempt to explain why the big bang occurred include string cosmology, the ekpyrotic Universe model, the cyclic Universe model, the black hole theory, etc. All these theories are, unfortunately, unsatisfactory. After all, we certainly have no evidence for what might have happened before the Big Bang took place. However, there is one theory that I would like to discuss in the following paragraphs—the Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory.

This theory is actually a combination of two separate lines of research. In one, James Hartle and Stephen Hawking proposed a theory based the idea that the Universe did not have a boundary; in the other, Neil Turok worked with Martin Bucher and Alfred Goldhaber in creating an inflationary, open Universe theory. Eventually, they combined the two theories to create the Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory. In essence, Hawking and Turok believe that the Universe began from nothingness! Our open, inflationary Universe was formed from an “instanton”—a theoretical particle combining space and time. Consider a small, dimpled spherical volume that looks like
a pea but is one trillion times smaller. Space and time are mixed in this pea so that its bottom half is like the round-off tip of an upside-down cone. On a space-time diagram, this pea lies at the bottom of a well; space is defined away from the axis and time along the axis, but as stated space and time mix inside the pea. However, if the Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory is true, what caused the existence of instanton in the first place? Based on the theory, there existed nothing before the instanton. The instanton was the beginning of everything! It was the instanton that produced the Big Bang and our open, inflationary Universe.

More importantly, a tremendous value of the Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory is that it combines quantum physics with what we observe, although many questions still remain unanswered. And after all, the Hawking-Turok Instanton Theory is just one possible explanation amongst many others. We ought to keep researching and working on discovering the truth behind the creation of our Universe.
Yitian Feng